Making the Cratur – An Overview
In the this short series of posts we will be finding out how Laphroaig Distillery make whisky, where I was fortunate to have the chance to take a tour with someone who had worked there for many years, Tom Anderson.
The process of producing whisky starts off very much like the process of making beer but without the hops. To begin making whisky we need four ingredients, water, yeast, barley, and most importantly, the people with the expertise to produce it.
The process at most distilleries, including Laphroaig, can be can broken roughly into seven stages;
Peating / Kilning
1, The barley is malted. This means germinating the grain by steeping it in water to change the starch into sugar.
2. Next, the barley is peated with the gentle burning of peat in the kiln to infuse the smokey flavours into the grain. The barley is then dried and crushed to form grist which releases the sugars.
3. This grist is then combined with water heated to different temperatures, and stirred to form a sugar solution called mash. This takes place in a large tank called the mash tun.
4. This sugar solution, or wort, is cooled and transferred to another tank called the washback where more water is added to the wort along with yeast to ferment the sugars into alcohols. This liquid, the wash, is akin to a beer with alcohol content at about 7% ABV.
5. The wash is transferred to the wash still where it heated and the alcohols are distilled off. These are called the low wines and are now at about 21% ABV. The low wines are then distilled again in the spirit still where they emerge at about 70% ABV.
6. Maturation is where the casks that have been filled with the spirit are left in oak casks to mature. This is where a lot of the flavour and all of the colour of whisky comes from. Depending on whether the casks have been previously filled with American Bourbon whisky, or Spanish sherry, affects the resultant whisky. Scottish whisky has to mature for at least three years for it to be deemed as Scotch.
7. Once the spirit has matured for the desired period, it is tested by blenders and tasters and then bottled for sale to the public.
We’ll be looking at each of these stages in more detail in later posts.